Sluggers provided spark, but no fire

Sluggers provided spark, but no fire

BOSTON -- Manny Ramirez hit like Manny, but aside from David Ortiz, few other Red Sox hitters hit like themselves.

In fact, the White Sox hit like the Red Sox in Chicago's three game sweep of the American League Division Series.

"We did not hit the way we are capable of," Red Sox second baseman Tony Graffanino said. "If we hit the ball the way we did that stretch at home, it's a different story in these ball games."

The Red Sox hit .240 and scored nine runs in three ALDS games. Ortiz and Ramirez hit .333 and .300, respectively, also combining for five RBIs.

The White Sox hit .289 and scored 24 runs in the series.

"There was no pressing in this clubhouse," Red Sox first baseman Kevin Millar said. "That team pitched better, that team hit better than us and they are advancing. We could not get a big hit at the right time and they did everything right."

Indeed.

The Red Sox managed seven hits in Friday's 5-3 loss and three of those hits were home runs -- two by Ramirez and one by Ortiz. The homers were Ramirez's 19th and 20th of his playoff career, moving him into sole possession of second-place on baseball's all-time postseason home run list. Only Yankees outfielder Bernie Williams, with 22, has more playoff home runs.

Ortiz's home run in the fourth inning off White Sox starter Freddy Garcia was his first of the ALDS and cut the White Sox lead to one run. Not to be outdone, Ramirez hit his first of the series in the very next at-bat to deadlock the game at 2. Ramirez also hit a home run in the sixth inning off Garcia to trim the White Sox lead to 4-3.

"They carried us down the stretch here," Red Sox hitting coach Ron Jackson said. "Since I have been here, David and Manny have had outstanding years. That's what it's all about, two guys helping the ballclub."

It was clear Ramirez and Ortiz were mostly satisfied with letting their bats do the talking. Ramirez joked to the Spanish media after the game that the only way to reach him for interviews was by his cell phone -- via text message. Ortiz disappeared for an hour after the game while he showered and gathered himself. The slugger peeked through the curtains to see who was still waiting on him before surfacing to address local and national reporters.

He spoke honestly.

"When you get to the playoffs, you've got to put it together," Ortiz said. "At the end of the season, it seemed like we were struggling at some points and it made it hard."

The sluggers' teammates were not nearly as shy and they spoke glowingly on behalf of their two All-Stars. They have praised them all year, and it appears as long as Ortiz and Ramirez are together on the same club, it's almost certain the dynamic duo will continue to amaze.

"Manny's numbers speak for themselves," Millar said. "He might not be a man of many words, but he doesn't have to talk. He's a bad, bad right-handed hitter in this league. Say what you want about him, but there is only one Manny Ramirez in the world and there is a guy named Albert Pujols that is behind him, but he's got about six more years to do it. Manny has been unbelievable."

Graffanino, who played with Chipper Jones in Atlanta, Frank Thomas while in Chicago and most recently with Mike Sweeney in Kansas City before coming to Boston, said he has never seen such a batting duo. Among his free-flowing praise, the infielder called Ramirez and Ortiz "phenomenal." It was quite an experience to watch the men hit during the second half of the season, he said.

"They seem to have such a great idea of what is about to happen in their at-bat, so when they get a pitch to hit, they don't miss it," Graffanino said. "They are tremendous and they obviously carried us."

Their bats were not enough. The offseason begins.

"I play to win," Ortiz said. "I'm not a loser. I love winning and I know how good it feels when you win, but it's not going to be like that all the time."

Jesse Sanchez is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.